Vallas to decide by Memorial Day whether to enter 2023 race for mayor

In round one of the 2019 mayoral sweepstakes, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas finished with 5.43% of the vote. Vallas believes the outcome will be dramatically different if he runs again.

SHARE Vallas to decide by Memorial Day whether to enter 2023 race for mayor
Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas at the Sun-Times on election night, Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

Paul Vallas

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas said Friday he will decide by Memorial Day whether to enter the race to unseat Mayor Lori Lightfoot — then unleashed a torrent of ideas on how to stop violent crime preoccupying voters.

Dump a “dazed and confused” Chicago Police Supt. David Brown.

Give demoralized officers a reason to stay by developing a coherent crime-fighting strategy, restoring “beat integrity” and creatingpredictable schedules that don’t “punish police families” by canceling days off.

Pass a “nuisance ordinance” that uses hefty fines and vehicle impoundment topunish looters, flash mobs and others for the lesser crimes the state’s attorney won’t prosecute.

Stop the avalanche of carjackings by extending the school day and year, keeping school campuses open until 8 p.m. each day and creating a work-study program for high school juniors.

“We had 58 mass shootings in Chicago last year. Our murder rate is at more than 90% of what our peak murder rate was during the cocaine wars of the 1990s. New York’s murder rate is at 25%. Clearly, something is wrong in Chicago,” Vallas told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“When you’ve lost 1,500 officers in 15 months, and you’ve only been able to replace 400 officers because, for the first time in history, being a Chicago police officer is not a job that attracts people, that is a prescription for disaster. That is, in large part, due to the fact that they don’t feel they have support from the mayor or the superintendent.”

A former city budget director, Vallas recently served as an unpaid adviser to the Fraternal Order of Police. His work at the bargaining table helped break a record-long stalemate and deliver an eight-year police contract that guaranteed rank-and-file officers a 20% pay raise, more than half of it retroactive.

On Friday, Vallas argued the trust he built with a police union that has been at loggerheads with Lightfoot would help persuade demoralized officers to stay on the job.

“You could do a signing bonus. You could give them, perhaps, a window on when to establish their residency. There’s a lot of incentives you could do to bring people in” and get them to stay, Vallas said, proposing double shifts at the police academy to speed hiring.

“But I’m absolutely convinced that, if you have the right leadership, you have the right strategy and you have a police department that is strongly supported by the mayor, you’re gonna slow the exodus of offices and buy yourself time to fill those vacancies.”

Vallas has long been a headline-generating idea machine dating back to his days as city revenue director and budget director under former Mayor Richard M. Daley and as part of a “dream team” with Gery Chico that enjoyed a five-year run at the Chicago Public Schools.

The former Philadelphia and New Orleans schools chief was no different during a wide-ranging interview with the Sun-Times that touched on his forte: public education.

With CPS enrollment down 25,000 over the last two years — to “lower than it was before the start of World War I” — Vallas wants to stop the bleeding by mandatingCPS spend ahealthy chunk of its annual share of a tax increment financing surplus on a school voucher program.

“High crime and lack of school choice is driving the middle class out this city. And the biggest middle-class exodus over the last 20 years has been Black families,” he said.

Earlier this week, Lightfoot argued that none of the decisions she’s made over the last two years have been easy, but they have been “guided by the data and the science, all in the interest of making sure that we save peoples’ lives in, I hope, the biggest … public health challenge of our lifetime.”

Vallas strongly disagreed.

“Her caving to the teachers union three times in keeping school campuses closed literally for 15 months had a devastating impact on the community ... We’re gonna be suffering the consequences for generations,” he said.

“Having350,000 kids walking the streets literally for 15 months — you not only saw it during COVID in … well over 150 young people being murdered. You also saw a historic increase in crimes committed by young people …. Well over 50% of the carjackings were teenagers.”

Vallas also took aim at Lightfoot’s proposed parade of giveaways — includinggas cards, Ventra cards, bicycles, surveillance camera and motion detector subsidies, and $500-a-month “guaranteed basic income” checks.

He accused the city and CPS of “squandering” $6 billion in federal pandemic relief funds, setting the stage for a post-election “budget catastrophe.”


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